Elon Musk has warned that his planned $44billion (£34.6billion) deal to buy Twitter will not move forward until the company’s chief executive publicly proves the platform has less 5% spam accounts.
The richest man in the world, who revealed last Friday that the takeover was “pending” on the matter, said its offer to buy the company was based on documents filed by Twitter to the American market regulator SEC.
Twitter estimates the number of spam/fake accounts to be less than 5% of users but admitted a constant battle to weed them out.
They include so-called bots – automated accounts that have the potential to flood the platform with spam and potentially harmful activity.
They are programmed to perform several tasks like a human user, including things like retweeting messages.
This seems harmless enough, except that social media bots are accused of influencing elections, running disinformation campaigns, and terrorizing individuals or groups.
The billionaire suspects fake accounts make up at least 20% of users, hurting the advertiser landscape.
He wrote on Twitter early Tuesday: “My offer was based on the accuracy of Twitter’s SEC filings. Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of
Musk is clearly using the issue as a way to drive down the agreed price for the takeover – with Twitter shares suffering amid the acrimony playing out in public.
He said at a conference in Miami on Monday: “You can’t pay the same price for something much worse than what they claim.
“The more questions I ask, the more my concerns grow.
“They claim they have this complex methodology that only they can understand… It can’t be a deep mystery that’s, like, more complex than the human soul or something.”
Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said internal estimates showed fake accounts for the last four quarters were “well below 5%”.
He argued that the figure could not be replicated externally given the need to use both public and private information to determine if an account is spam.
Musk responded to Agrawal’s defense of the company’s methodology with a poo emoji.
“So how do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money? It’s fundamental to Twitter’s financial health,” Musk wrote.
Twitter stock closed Monday at $39.39 per share, well below the $54.20 Musk agreed to pay.
Shares are now below the level seen in early April when Musk first revealed his stake on Twitter.